Clashes as Ecuador president declares ‘state of emergency’

QUITO Clashes broke out between protesters and

police in Ecuador after President Lenin Moreno declared a state of

emergency Thursday following demonstrations against rising fuel prices due

to the government scrapping subsidies.

Police fired tear gas at protesters who threw stones and fire bombs close

to the seat of government in the historic center of the capital Quito.

Moreno told reporters he had taken the measure to safeguard the security

of citizens and to avoid chaos.

The protests the largest in a decade were led by the transport sector

but included students and other groups.

They paralyzed public transportation in some areas, while clashes between

police and demonstrators blocked roads.

Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said 45 people were arrested. No figures

were available for the number of people injured but some press photographers

were hurt during the clashes.

The demonstrations came in response to increases of up to 120 percent in

fuel prices, which came into force on Thursday after the government

eliminated subsidies as part of an agreement with the International Monetary

Fund to obtain loans despite its high public debt.

A gallon of diesel rose from $1.03 to $2.30 while regular gasoline

increased from $1.85 to $2.40. The price of premium gasoline was already

hiked a year ago.

The subsidies were costing the government $1.3 billion a year.

The IMF agreement, signed in March, allowed Ecuador to borrow $4.2 billion.

Moreno blames the deterioration in Ecuador's finances on his predecessor,

Rafael Correa, who has sought asylum in Belgium.

He is wanted back home on suspicion of kidnapping a political opponent in

2012 during his 10-year presidency.

The emergency measure allows the government to restrict movement, to employ

the armed forces to maintain order and to censor the press.

It will be in place for 60 days, after which it can be extended for a

further 30 days, the government said.

School class suspensions were extended into Friday, while buses and taxis

stopped operating in Quito and other large cities.

Unions and indigenous organizations are also planning protests.

Moreno said he wouldn't allow protesters to impose chaos, and also called

for an end to acts of vandalism and acts of violence.

Between 1996 and 2007, mass street protests forced the resignation of three

presidents a turbulent period in which Ecuador had a total of seven

holders of its highest office.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)